Etan Patz again

New York Magazine has an Etan Patz article, again with a photo I’ve never seen before. This month is the 30th anniversary of his disappearance. It’s quite long but it’s a good summary of the twists and turns of the case. It’s written by the author of After Etan. The library has the book on order, and I’ve placed a hold on it. I’ll review it on this blog when I read it.

Etan disappeared on the very first day his parents let him walk to the bus stop alone. Nowadays I think it would be inconceivable to let a six-year-old walk to the bus stop by himself in New York City, and I’m pretty sure it was Etan’s disappearance and others like it that caused parents to supervise their kids more. (I heard that later on some women on the street recognized his mom from the news and said, “You must feel so bad about it, especially considering how it was all your fault.” Growl.) But even if his parents hadn’t let him walk to the bus stop by himself, he would have disappeared anyway. I’m not saying his abduction was completely unpreventable — that’s nonsense — but Jose Antonio Ramos was stalking him and was just waiting for an opportunity.

Incidentally, I do think it’s kind of odd that Etan became basically the model for America’s missing child. He was young and very cute, it’s true. But he was a boy, and he was conspicuously Jewish. I would have expected a little girl from a Christian “All-American” family would be more likely to get that kind of attention.

29 thoughts on “Etan Patz again

  1. Karen May 5, 2009 / 5:30 am

    Lisa Cohen’s website,, has a number of great photos (the photo of Etan on a ladder is haunting). There are also links to several recent articles.

    The authorities think they know what happened to Etan’s body–Ramos lived in a slum building with a basement furnace.

    I haven’t started the book yet, but it will be interesting to see if any police ever went to Manhattan’s East Village to talk to the locals. Did any of them see Crazy Jose and a small boy walking through Alphabet City?

  2. orla May 5, 2009 / 4:51 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with the woman who approached Mrs Patz and said “it’s your fault”.I don’t think it is helpful to point that out to any parent who is missing a child.

    But I am a little sick of people saying ( in cases where the parent “only” turned their back for five minutes/ only let the child out of their sight unsupervised/only went into the store for a second and the child disappears ) oh its not your fault, it could happen to anyone.

    No it couldn’t. And it doesn’t happen to parents who do take precautions.

    Naturally if a predator makes a concerted effort to snatch your child, maybe all your precautions will be in vain. But you did take them. You did your best.

    When you don’t take any precautions then it is a bit rich to start wailing about “how did this happen” and getting offended and indignant when it is pointed out to you that, yes, this is your fault.

    I’m not advocating crazy parenting wither like following your 17 year old to school – there is a fine line between letting your kid assert their independence and being protective of them – but some of the cases I am thinking of involv kids under 10 – no way should kids that age be out alone.

    My 2 cents anyway.

    • Meaghan May 5, 2009 / 4:59 pm

      I was raised to be pretty independent. By age four I was going to the end of my block by myself. By six I was going into the woods and fields behind my house. By eight I was left alone in the house when my parents went out for short periods. I didn’t suffer for it; I’m glad it happened like that. I think the way many parents keep their kids chained up these days is very troubling.

      Etan’s abduction was not his mom’s fault, or his dad’s. It was the fault of whoever took him — presumably, Jose Antonio Ramos, who admitted he’d been stalking Etan for some time and knew his bus route and everything. Whatever precautions his parents could have taken wouldn’t have made much of a difference here. (And, for what it’s worth, they were far from the only parents who let their kid walk to the bus stop alone. Etan had been begging them to let him do it because a lot of his classmates had the privilege.) Child abduction DOES happen even in the most protective of families.

    • Blair April 7, 2012 / 4:03 pm

      No parent or person in general is superhuman, so it can happen to anyone that their child is kidnapped. There are unfortunately no guarantees in life and unless you keep your child out of the real world, there’s no telling what other evil people can and will do since you can’t control their actions. All a parent or person can do is try their best at keeping their child safe while still letting them live a normal life. There are no precautions that can be taken to completely be safe, nobody is perfect.

  3. orla May 5, 2009 / 7:27 pm

    I have no doub it does happen in even the most protective families but I think we will have to agree to differ Meaghan.

    Sometimes it is a parent’s fault that a child is in an unsafe situation ( obviously the abductor is to blame for the abduction). And while I am not referring to the Patz case particularly, I don’t think the reasoning that “ah well, everyone lets their kids go here/there alone” is particularly helpful.

    I too remember growing up with no real need for parental supervision when out playing etc and I agree that the “helicopter parenting” of today is damaging to kids denying them any independence.

    As I said before it is a fine line between fostering independence and protecting them from people who would do them harm.

    • Oshie May 8, 2009 / 8:07 pm

      Unless it’s your mother who is molesting you. I remember fantasizing how lucky Etan was to live in NYC, so he could run away, when I heard about the case as a young child myself. I resided on isolated military installations with nowhere to run. Sexual predators may be the women (your best friend who you think you know and can trust) that you are leaving your children with to watch them while you pop out to the store. Educate yourselves about the signs of child abuse and protect ALL children.

      • Meaghan May 9, 2009 / 12:20 am

        If there’s anything good that came out of the recent Sandra Cantu rape/murder, it’s that the public has been shown that women can also be sexual predators.

        Etan’s parents were not negligent, just extremely unlucky.

      • orla May 9, 2009 / 7:41 pm

        Good point re Sandra Canut Meaghan – there has been a recent case here in Ireland of a mother who has been jailed for incest against four of her children- it continued over a period of years and was never picked up by the schools, police or social workers, really dreadful.

        Also, I don’t think Etan’s parents were willfully or recklessy negligent either and I do agree that they were extremely unlucky.

        Oshie – you summed it all up in your last line.

  4. Joanne May 8, 2009 / 4:20 am

    I think the issue with Patz being a poster child for missing kids has more to do with the fact that his parents have media contacts and friends that repeatedly write about him and get it published.

    So many missing kids don’t have parents with those connections, and their stories are basically hidden

  5. forthelost May 9, 2009 / 11:31 pm

    Many of us didn’t need Sandra Cantu to be told that.

    • Meaghan May 10, 2009 / 12:16 am

      Aye. But I said “the public,” meaning the average person, who still finds woman sex offenders incomprehensible.

  6. Oshie May 11, 2009 / 6:15 pm

    I took a walk yesterday from 113 Prince Street (Etan’s home) to 234 E. 4th Street (Jose Ramos’s apt.) in Manhattan, a few short blocks away. In doing so I contemplated how Etan left his loft full of hope, joy & courage on May 25, 1979. As I stood in front of 234 E. 4th St. I was overcome with horror that this same child most likely walked through that doorway and was subsequently raped and murdered in the building before me. The history of such places is lost on most people, as a fashionable group dined in a swanky restaurant on the ground floor, only a few feet away from the doorway that Etan’s body was removed by Jose Ramos. I stood there dumbfounded by the juxtapostion of these two scenes.

    What a horrible price has been paid for awareness of child sex abuse, abduction & murder. I am somewhat optimistic about the level of knowledge and education that has developed in the past thirty years. No doubt Etan Patz’s murder and subsequent media attention was a catalyst in the field of trauma research.

  7. auntfeminina May 24, 2009 / 1:02 pm

    I enjoyed your post and the subsequent discussion, although I disagree with your assertion that Etan was “conspicuously Jewish.” I’ll bet most Americans familiar with the case are unaware of that point of trivia–one that had never occurred to me one way or another until I read “After Etan.” (And actually, the light-haired, blue-eyed child with the Gentile mother and non-observant father would not, in the views of some Jewish people, be considered Jewish at all. But that’s another topic.)

    I agree with Joanne, above. The primary reason Patz became the first, and arguably quintessential poster child for missing kids is because his popular, well-educated parents were media savvy and well-connected. And not only was Etan an attractive white child, but his father Stan Patz is a professional photographer whose many affecting Etan portraits used during the search stirred the emotions of Americans all over the nation. Etan was not “that blurry child on the left,” because Stan Patz’s memorable close-ups (a far cry from the blurry Polaroids of the era) brought this child into our homes and hearts and made us feel as if we knew him.

    • Meaghan May 24, 2009 / 2:37 pm

      The Patz family was observant, I believe, though obviously they weren’t Orthodox or anything — no sidelocks. To me, Etan’s Jewishness was obvious from his name, and from the names of his siblings, Ari and Shira. Perhaps those wouldn’t mean much today, when everyone wants to give “unique” and “multicultural” names to their kids, but naming practices in the seventies were much different and Etan’s Hebrew name was very obvious to me.

      I Googled the names of Etan’s brother and sister to find out what had happened to them. It looks like Ari became a photographer like his dad. Stanley’s portraits of Etan are indeed beautiful.

      • forthelost May 25, 2009 / 8:18 pm

        Nitpick, but Orthodox Jews don’t wear sidelocks – those are the Hasids.

  8. Sarah May 31, 2009 / 5:54 am

    I believe both abductor and parents are at fault in this case. There will always be bad people out there and you WILL take a risk by letting your kids under 10 (or even under 14) to be out by themselves.

    Also, Etan was independent enough as it is — he was in the bus on his own and in school, and surely learning independence that way. He doesn’t have to be on his own on the street!

    I would NEVER dream of having my kids out by themselves without any supervision. I grew up under watchful eyes until the age of 18 and I never suffered for it. I am an independent person but I also understand the risks of being out alone.

    So yeah, I am sorry, but those parents made a HUGE mistake. They are paying for it for the rest of their lives. The guilt they must feel is enough punishment I suppose.

  9. lisa cohen May 31, 2009 / 1:53 pm

    A few remarks from AFTER ETAN’S author on your very thoughtful conversation here:

    I agree with the consensus – Etan’s parents weren’t at fault, they were just unlucky.

    Stan and Julie were – and still are – incredibly articulate, which was a big plus for reporters, but they actually weren’t all that connected – they had one friend who knew some press. Mostly they were descended upon by reporters on a slow news weekend who’d heard about hundreds of cops and countless neighbors fanning out in downtown Manhattan. And the photography of Stan Patz is a key part of this puzzle, as one commenter said.

    Then when the mystery wasn’t solved and the case went on, so did the media story.

    They also are not religious at all. Julie converted to Judaism to satisfy Stan’s mother. Stan is somewhere on the spectrum between agnostic and atheist, although what he really is – is a devout humanist.

    And Oshie, what a moving thing to do – to actually walk the route from the Patz loft to Ramos’s lair. I’ve done it too, and it is chilling.

    Please pass the word to your friends, not just because of course, I’d like everyone to read the book, but because I want everyone to follow the status of this case and at the very least track the whereabouts of Jose Ramos, in case he gets out of prison as scheduled in Nov 2012.

    For more information on the case, and how to support efforts to pursue Ramos, check my website:

    To report any information on the case, contact this FBI/NYPD hotline, newly established (in anticipation of new interest: (212)384-2200. All calls will be kept confidential.

  10. Deer June 17, 2009 / 11:31 pm

    “But he was a boy, and he was conspicuously Jewish. I would have expected a little girl from a Christian “All-American” family would be more likely to get that kind of attention”

    Yawn. Please grow up. I’m really tired of hearing this kind of nonsense. It’s 2009! For goodness sake, 2009! Enough already.

    • Meaghan June 18, 2009 / 10:37 am

      I am not saying Etan shouldn’t have gotten all that attention due to his Jewishness or any other reason, I was simply observing that the media tends to cover certain missing person cases more heavily than others. Like, if you’re a black man and you’re missing, forget it, you will get nothing. This is no reflection on black men, but rather a reflection of the prejudices of American media and the American public.

  11. Deer July 6, 2009 / 6:03 am

    Yes, I know exactly what you meant, but I stand by my statement. What basically ends up happening is that one kind of person accuses “the media” of “being Jewish” and then another kind of person says “the media” discriminates against Jews, apparently, as you said.

    My point was that in 2009, it’s annoying when people see prejudice everywhere, especially in the U.S. While I don’t doubt it still exists to some degree, there’s no need to give it a higher profile than it actually has.

  12. Ana April 28, 2012 / 10:52 pm

    Meaghan you were very indeed very lucky and thank god nothing ever happened to you. But I do not agree with allowing children that young to be alone outside unsupervised. It’s just too risky though I agree that not all children get abducted but if they’re alone the risk will always be there. I grew up in the 1970’s and my parents never allowed me to walk alone anywhere and this was before Etan Patz disappeared. My mom had seven children and she was paranoid about that. I never felt smothered by it except maybe when I was already a teenager (hey I couldn’t wear makeup until I was 16) Now I have two children and though my 14 year old takes trains here in NY by himself to head to his school I can’t deny it, it does worry me. But we do have to give our children some independence at some point and this is will always tear at our hearts.

    As for Etan I do feel his parents made a mistake. A six year old is too young to fend for himself on the streets but I still wouldn’t say his parents are to blame. Etan did point out that many of his friends walked by themselves to the bus and his parents knew this so they they believed he’d be safe enough in his own neighborhood with fellow children and the bus stop was not far. She did watch him walk down the first block so he really was alone for one block. Who could guess that a pedophile psycho like Jose Ramos had already been stalking their beautiful child? His parents had no way to even guess this for this is the stuff of nightmares. It’s so tragic and unfortunate. And though my mom never allowed me or my siblings to walk alone I do remember many children around me who did walk to school alone so this was more common back then. This was one of those moments that you chance and get the worse result.

    Isn’t there at least any parent or person out there that saw Etan with Ramos that morning? I read in the After Etan book that a blond child was seen in Ramos building but did anyone see him talking to him? I sometimes wonder if Chester Jones did see Etan with Ramos. As a cabbie he wouldn’t have necessarily saw the man’s face completely and what he described the man as saying did sound like something Ramos would have said. And to leave without paying sounded like him too. Makes you wonder.

    However it happened I believe Ramos was the killer. He is sneaky and planned to take Etan for a long time. So right now we have to keep tabs on this monster for he cannot simply disappear himself once he’s released this November. i so hope they can charge him with Etan’s kidnapping and murder by then.

    As for all the coverage this case has gotten. There could be a lot of reasons from being in NY, the photos the fact that he’s white and really such a cute child or maybe this was just a case that grabs you. This case does that. We don’t have to complain about the coverage. Let’s just study other cases too. We can do that as well.

    A.M Torres Author of Love Child

    • Meaghan April 28, 2012 / 11:02 pm

      My mom also had seven children. I was the youngest, not only that but the much-youngest. The next older sibling was five years older than me, and I have a brother twenty years older.

      Something actually did almost “happen” to me when I was somewhere in the four-to-six age range and at the end of the block by myself. A neighbor attempted to convince me to go into his house with the promise of a flower, and when I said no he tried to drag me in there against my will. He only stopped after I started kicking and screaming, and then he couldn’t get away from me fast enough. I ran home crying and told my mother that the neighbor had gotten angry and yelled at me — I did not realize what had actually happened, and Mom was just trying to get me to calm down and stop crying and she didn’t ask for the details. I expect that if she had gotten me to tell her exactly what occurred, she would have gone over there to have a chat with that man or possibly called the police.

    • Meaghan May 3, 2012 / 12:37 am

      (Sorry, your comment got marked as spam and I just found it.) Yeah, I’ve read After Etan and it was excellent. The author’s publisher sent me a free copy to review — something that’s happened several times because my website is so prominent.

  13. MsMoneypenny May 26, 2012 / 8:14 pm

    Looks like Ramos wasn’t the culprit after all…..

    What’s chilling is that I read in NY Times archives that Etan left his lunch in the restaurant on the corner where the bus stop was the day before- the same bodega where his killer worked. So it seems he was perhap targeted- but not by Ramos.

    • Meaghan May 26, 2012 / 8:19 pm

      I remain unconvinced. See today’s blog for my thoughts.

  14. A.M. Torres Author (@sonic1170) December 24, 2017 / 3:29 pm

    Megan I’m not convinced either. I think they rushed this whole thing with Pedro Hernandez. Where can I read your blog on this?

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